Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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fighttest 08-25-2009 03:45 PM

plants turning brown
i have a 50g tank with eco complete substrait and 2 15w life glo flurencent bulbs. there are 5 plants in the tank total im not sure of the names but 3 of them look kind of like amazon swords and come in variations with the words white or gold 1 of them looks like a moneywart plant and the other has leaves that look like an anubias. i did a water test today and my ph is 8.1(i need to find a way to lower it, any suggestions would help) and my nitrates is at 7 everything else is 0 so i figure ill do a water change pretty soon because i think what made it go up was my dad was over feeding the fish. i was wondering though if i dont have enough light though for the plants or if i need to start adding a fertilizer or co2 system. if i do need to start adding fertilizer could someone please suggest a good brand.

Byron 08-26-2009 02:47 PM

I have a few suggestions for you.

First, the light: Life Glo are excellent plant light tubes (the best in my humble opinion) but you may not have enough intensity. The tank is 50g, but can you indicate the dimensions (length, width and height)? I may have a suggestion afterwards. Also, are these regular fluorescent tubes, or T-5 tubes?

Second, you don't need CO2, it would not help at all with the low (relatively) amount of light. Plants require light, CO2 and macro- and micro-nutrients in order to photosynthesize which is how they grow, by converting sugards into energy through photosynthesis; these things must be in balance, meaning enough of each to work together. In low-light tanks, the fish and biological processes provide adequate CO2; adding more would be a waste since the light (and other nutrients probably) would not balance it. Other nutrients might be needed in the form of liquid fertilizer, and Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Plant Supplement is in my view the best. It has all the required nutrients and in the proper balance that aquatic plants need; 1/2 tsp each week, or possibly twice a week, would be sufficient in a 50g aquarium.

Third, the plants you mention will (should) grow well in a low-tech system, provided the light is adequate and possibly with liquid fertilizer once a week. That's all I provide in my tanks, you can see the photos under "My Aquariums."

Fourth, and this is something that could be a factor along with the light, is the high pH. Except for a very few plants, most aquatic plants come from waters that are slightly acidic (pH below 7.0) and soft. However, most will adapt quite well to slightly basic (alkaline) water in the 7.0 to 7.8 range. Having said that though, 8.1 will probably still work once the light issue is resolved, and we can look at plants that fare better with a higher pH. As for altering the pH, it is generally better to go with what comes out of the tap, fish and plant wise, rather than trying to alter it. So, before we look at that, do you know the pH of your tap water? And what fish are you keeing in the tank?

When we have the tank dimensions, type of tubes, pH value of your tap water, and the fish you have, more will follow.


fighttest 08-26-2009 08:36 PM

my demensions are 48x13x18, the lights are life glo 15w t8 tubes, i just tested the tap water and it was 8, i have 12 neon tetra and 2 zebra loaches

Byron 08-27-2009 09:08 AM


Originally Posted by fighttest (Post 233840)
my demensions are 48x13x18, the lights are life glo 15w t8 tubes, i just tested the tap water and it was 8, i have 12 neon tetra and 2 zebra loaches

From this info, my view is that the light is insufficient and fertilization should be done. Overfeeding the fish a couple of times would not negatively affect the plants. They need adequate light and nutrients. As I mentioned previously, Life-Glo is excellent full spectrum light, and T-8 tubes are the regular like I have; there probably needs to be more of it. However, Anubias is a very low-light plant and should manage in your setup. Moneywort is a stem plant and stem plants require more light than rooted plants because they grow much faster. The swords are adaptable, but they are heavy feeders so here the problem is probably more a lack of nutrients (iron particularly, but this has to be in balance with the other macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients).

The pH is OK in the aquarium from the perspective that it is the same as the tap water so nothing in the tank is causing it to rise, that's worth knowing. As you seem to prefer acidic-water fish, the best way to adjust your pH downward would be peat filtration or using RO water mixed with tap water. However, I would leave this alone for the present, as I think liquid plant fertilization and then possibly additional light should get your plants growing again.

To start, I would get a bottle of Seachem's Flourish Comprehensive Plant Supplement; the "Flourish" line has many different products, be sure it is the Comprehensive one which is all you need. For a 50g, I would use one teaspoon after the next partial water change, and one teaspoon three days later (to equal two doses per week). I would do this for a couple of weeks; you should see the sword plants improve with new green leaves. At that point, reducing the fertilization to once a week can be tried, and if any deterioration in the word leaves iappears (yellowing leaves), go back to twice weekly. I've done this in my aquaria, and found that I need twice a week fertilization to keep the plants lush and green. It has to be experimented a bit, because nutrients come from fishfood and biological processes from the fsh as well, and the liquid fertilization is only to supply what is otherwise lacking.

You may have plant growth adequate for your needs with just the Flourish. Increasing the amount of light would be the next step if you want to go further, but for now I would try the Flourish as it is the least expense and I believe will give improved results.


fighttest 08-27-2009 09:43 PM

in the way of lights how could i go about getting more light in there? i was thinking 60 watts of light would be sufficient enough and i could do that but adding 2 more light fixtures over where the flap in the front of the tank is. i would get the same t8 15watt life glo bulbs for these or maybe flora glo. if there is a better way to go about adding more light please tell me

Angel079 08-28-2009 07:43 AM

I'd agree, I have had FULLY planted tanks (and I mean like 90% plants in all tanks covered) and never a single CO2 bottle.
Apart from the water parameters, would I'd like to ask:
1) How long are your lights on?
2) Does the tank get direct sunlight?
3) How often do you do water exchanges and how much?

If I read the above correct, you do have 2 lights existing correct? Personally I had best success in my larger tanks to have 1x flora glo and 1x life glo in my tanks as a "mix of lights"

Byron 08-28-2009 10:33 AM

Angel079's combo of tubes is good. But the issue is still having sufficient intensity, and I think your 30 watts over a 50g is bordering on insufficient with whatever tubes. I've found 1 to 1.5 watts of this type of light per gallon is usually adequate for all but the high-end stem plants that need more light and nutrients.

To answer you question on adding more tubes: I'm assuming from your info so far that you have one of the standard hood units with two light fixtures. As you have a 48-inch tank, I would replace the hood with a glass cover and one two-tube strip light fixture that runs the length of the aquarium and sits on the frame above the glass. This is what I have on my three largest tanks (you can probably see it a bit in the photos under my "Aquariums"). That would give you 80 watts (a 48-inch tube is 40w unless you get one of the Zoo Med ones that are 32w I believe) which would be slightly over the 1.5 wpg and in my view very good. Years ago I had a 55g (same length) with one 48-inch tube and I grew nice looking swords and crypts, but my two tubes over comparable sized tanks are significantly better.

I'm assuming (again) that this is a standard rectangular tank, so glass covers will be readily available. I have the hood over my 33g, so having had both I definitely prefer glass covers with a strip fixture. You can get one-tube and two-tube strip fixture, and I think I've seen three-tube but I wouldn't go for that as there would be more light than you need to balance the nutrients and CO2. A single-tube with a high output tube like the Life-Glo [as opposed to the Life-Glo 2 which is slightly less intense] might suffice, but for the minimal difference in cost, go for 2 tubes as it gives you more flexibility in combining types of light as Angel has done and I do. The Life-Glo is natural sun at mid-day, and you can mix it with a special tube to highlight the blue (which is the light colour plants need most) but it still isn't "ghostly" looking because the Life-Glo 2 balances it.


fighttest 08-29-2009 11:23 PM

i went to the smart smart one town over to look for a 48 inch 2 light fixture but couldnt find one so i suppose ill need to order it off line. i was thinking i would get a piece of plexi glass or strong clear plastic to span the aquarium if the fixture needs something under it to support its self. does plexi glass or any kind of plastic diffuse light?

Byron 08-30-2009 11:20 AM


Originally Posted by fighttest (Post 235318)
i went to the smart smart one town over to look for a 48 inch 2 light fixture but couldnt find one so i suppose ill need to order it off line. i was thinking i would get a piece of plexi glass or strong clear plastic to span the aquarium if the fixture needs something under it to support its self. does plexi glass or any kind of plastic diffuse light?

On the cover, I've always had glass and I've never noticed plexiglass covers, but that doesn't mean they aren't out there or workable. As long as they are clear the light will get through. However, a sheet of whichever I would not recommend. First, you need air exchange between the water surface and the room to avoid a "sealed" space which would quickly overheat and inhibit gas exchange very quickly. Second, you want to be able to get into the tank to feed the fish and so forth, and a cover with openings (sliding glass panels) works best. Also, you will need to clean the underside of the glass regularly to prevent buildup of minerals from the evaporating water. Water condenses from the tank onto the glass particularly at night, and when the lights come on they heat the water evaporating it from the glass into the air, but the minerals remain and over time build up, calcium particularly and depending upon how hard your water is. It is easier to remove this every week during the pwc; if left longer it can become very difficult to remove, requiring acid like vinegar and razor blades to scrape it.

There has to be a glass (or similar) covering between the water surface and the lights, for obvious reasons.

There are several places online from which you can order glass covers and light fixtures. I've no first-hand experience with them, I always use local stores because I prefer direct dealing in case I need to return the equipment for whatever reason. Dr.Foster&Smith is an excellent site for information on equipment and light, etc., here's the link to their fish page: Fish Supplies: Fish Tank & Fish Care |


fighttest 08-30-2009 06:53 PM

thanks i ordered a 48" double bulb fluorescent light strip today and went to my local petsmart and got a glass canopy. when i got the strip light i should have ordered the bulbs with it as well but forgot so i when i went to petsmart i looked at the bulbs there and they are 10 dollars more for each one:( i gotta go back to dr.fosters and order them... sucks i could have saved on shipping costs

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